May 232012

If your elderly parent has a communicable disease whether it is a cold or HIV, there are standard precautions you should take to prevent the transmission of the illness to others, including yourself.

Caring for Someone with an Infection

It is also important to protect yourself from getting an infection from the person for whom you are providing care. Washing your hands is always the number one thing you can do but consider the following also:

Clean equipment by rinsing in cool water to remove any particles (warm water may cause particles to stick to the equipment). Then wash with hot, soapy water, rinse well, and dry thoroughly. If you are dealing with a very virulent infection, you may want to rinse with cool water, spray with a ten percent bleach-water solution and allow it to sit for a couple of minutes before washing in hot soapy water. Boiling for “sterilization” is usually unnecessary.

Urinary drainage bags a.k.a. catheter bags ideally should be left connected to the catheter to prevent contamination. However, during the day mobile people often switch to a smaller leg bag that can be hidden under a skirt or pants leg. Leg bags and the larger night bags can be cleansed with soap and water. Rinse with a tablespoon of vinegar in a cup of water to help keep down oder and infections. Allow to air dry.

Dispose of body wastes down the toilet being careful to avoid splashing. Wash linens and clothes soiled with body waste separate from other laundry.

If the parent you are caring for receives medications from a multi-dose syringe such as an insulin pen, it is best to have the person receiving the medication remove the needle from the pen if possible to protect yourself. With a standard syringe and needle, never remove, bend, break or recap the needle after use.

In healthcare settings sharp objects such as syringes with needles are disposed of in biohazard containers and the containers are incinerated according to strict guidelines. Small versions of these biohazard containers are available in most pharmacy’s but should never be thrown out with your home trash. If you elect to use these, you will need to find out where you can drop them off for disposal. Your pharmacist, physician, hospital or local home healthcare agency can direct you where to take them.

If you are caring for someone with an infection that can be transmitted by blood such as HIV or hepatitis B, consider having any used needles disposed of as a medical facility would.

For most homes people can use any rigid, puncture-proof receptacle with a small opening, such as a bleach bottle, will do and is acceptable practice. Place a small amount of bleach in the bottle, drop the syringe, with needle intact into the bottle. When full replace the cap and tape it well with a strong tape. I always reminded my patients that things fall off garbage trucks all the time and the last thing you want is a child getting into a bottle full of used needles. Never use bottles, glass or plastic, that can be returned to the store.

When someone in the home is receiving wound care the soiled bandages should be placed in a bag which is then tied up and placed in another bag for disposal. If the bandages are dripping wet, talk with your healthcare provider about using a more absorbent dressing. If there is a chance of a blood-born infection, soiled bandages might need to be burned. Discuss this with your healthcare provider.

Clothes and bedding should be laundered separately in hot, soapy water with a ten percent bleach solution added to the detergent.

Do not share thermometers, razors, razor blades, toothbrushes, douche or enema equipment.

Do not share eating and drinking utensils. Clean them after use with hot soapy water. Using a dishwasher is good.

When flushing a toilet germs are sprayed into the air, even with the lid down. Toothbrushes should be covered or placed in the medicine cabinet or in a drawer.

Faucets in bathrooms and kitchens should be cleaned daily with a disinfectant.

Obviously the best way to prevent infection is through cleanliness. The foundation of it all is good hand washing.


  7 Responses to “Infection Control Part 5 – Caring for Elderly Parents with Infections”

  1. Good heavens Suzanne, so many areas to consider if you care for someone who is ill. Thanks for the eminently practical and detailed advice, it really is most useful.

    EcoFriendlyLink – the ‘genuinely green’ website
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  2. It must be very easy to either stop paying attention to preventing infection or become obsessed by it

  3. Suzanne,
    cleanliness is the key. Great advice to cover toothbrushes because of accidental splashes from the toilet.

    Covert Hypnosis: 3 Tips To The Maxims Of Persuasion

  4. It is better to be thorough than risk infecting yourself or someone else. So much to think about being a caregiver.

    Wendy Schauer: Author, Speaker, Chiropractor, Kettlebell Trainer</a

  5. Wow. Amazing list, Suzanne! Thanks for all the information here!
    Mark Hogan

  6. Caring for a person with infection, excellent post!
    Looking forward to tomorrow!
    Help I’m a Caregiver?

  7. Excellent reminders. Especially the hand washing. Most don’t realize just how effective that is in preventing transmission.
    Be Well.

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